Wednesday, January 30, 2008


When I moved to Pence in 1984, after having finally sold my house and paying off all my bills in L.A., I arrived in Wisconsin debt-free and with something over $50,000 in the bank. The first year, after buying the house and making $32,000 in repairs, I was resorting to buying nearly everything on my credit cards. It subsequently took me 20 years to pay them off. It was a lesson I will not soon forget.

But since banks make billions of dollars each year trying to lure consumers into going deeper and deeper into debt so that they can collect the interest fees as well as all those other little hidden charges which appear on your credit card statement each month, they have little interest in promoting fiscal responsibility.

And of course businesses do their part, offering “no payments until 2793" loans and “low, low rates for highly qualified buyers” (and I still haven’t a clue as to what a “highly qualified buyer” might be, but you can be sure, when you take them up on their offer and apply, it ain’t you).

I found it oddly pleasurable to see that banks are getting bitten on the behind when their scheme to make huge housing loans to people they knew going in wouldn’t be able to afford them backfired. I’m not quite sure what their thinking was…if indeed there was any…when they totally overlooked the fact that constantly raising mortgage payments might just result in foreclosures leaving the banks holding thousands of properties they can’t sell. I’m truly sorry for those poor people who were foolish enough to be roped in by the banks’ offers but, again, the banks apparently did not realize you can’t get blood out of a turnip.

But don’t weep too much for the banks just yet. They are doing quite well, thank you, on their credit card interest.

There seems to be a spate of TV ads…ads which have to cost a fortune to produce…pushing the envelope of just how stupid the average viewer can be. (Granted, there is overwhelming evidence that the bottom of the stupidity barrel is nowhere in sight.) One ad, for a large bank, generously says that when you buy something using their card, they will round it up to the nearest dollar and put the change into your savings account! Wow! What an offer!!! So I buy something on their card for $19.99 and they will, out of the goodness of their hearts, round that up to $20.00, putting one whole penny into my savings account. Wow again! I grow weak in the knees. They’re putting one whole penny…which, by the way, they have charged me for…into my own savings account.

I’ll put in that order for a new Cadillac right now!

A similar scheme, by a sponsor I blessedly have managed to forget, features a cute little yellow glob floating around about six feet off the ground which, when not at the gym “working on my abs”, tells you that if you pay your bills on time for six months in a row, on the seventh month, they will return that month’s interest to you! The purpose of that little ploy is aimed at promptly raking in a good six months of usurous interest, after which they will give you a magnanimous rebate equal to less than 1/7 of the total interest you’ve paid during that time. A win-win situation. The banks win, and the banks win. You? Oh, go out and charge something!

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